Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Top Ten Challenges Of Being An Expat In Bangkok - #9 Western Holidays

In most cultures we have significant holidays. There are times of year we stop our normal everyday life to slow down, reflect, celebrate and honor parts of our family, traditions and heritage. It can be easy to take for granted how much those moments mean. 

When you're in Asia as a Westerner this can be particularly challenging. Even when I lived in Germany as a teenager Christmas was A HUUUUUUGE DEAL! It was all snow and Kris Kringle Markets and flat out magic. There were many traditions we missed but also some that went hand in hand with our American idea of the holidays. 

In Asia this is not the case. Thanksgiving is nothing of course. Kids in school. Husbands at work unless they're government. Maybe you can get a turkey and maybe not. 

Halloween is celebrated in our neighborhood traditionally though this year it was cancelled out of respect for a time of mourning. 

Christmas the kids are out of school. So that's a plus. The malls around here attempt Christmas. It's kinda fun and amusing. There are giant Christmas trees. You get the distinct feeling that maybe Thailand associates Disney with Christmas and they think Halloween is somehow related. Now the Disney Christmas thing I'm all for so the thematic decor makes me grin. The Halloween costumes that are sometimes thrown in the "American Christmas" displays are good for a giggle. The three ancient Christmas songs on repeat can grate on your nerves but that's what headphones are for right? 

The tougher thing is sweating through the holidays, not being able to find a gingerbread house, missing some favorite foods, being away from The Nutcracker or whatever local traditions you practice. Toughest of all is being across the world not even in the same day as the people you love at home. 

Here are my suggestions for holiday survival in Bangkok- 


1. Bring costumes if you want to make life easier. Consider bringing favorite candy or having a friend bring it if you have traditional favorites. 

2. Make a Halloween playlist to play in the house. 

3. Host a movie day for some kids and play something only a little creepy but very HALLOWEEN. ;) 


1. Consider hosting or organizing an "American Thanksgiving" on Friday night. No one has school the next day so it's easier than having it Thursday. You can also prep while the kids are at school. Lol. Bonus. Also it's actually Thanksgiving in America when it's Friday here so that's when it's weird anyway. Tell everyone to bring their favorite foods. It's actually super fun. If you have a friend in the military or embassy know that they may have easier access to the group turkey and some American staples. :-) 

2. Think about going to eat lunch with your kiddo or kiddos at school on Thanksgiving Day. International schools often serve Thanksgiving type foods and it can ease the weirdness of the day for all of you to at least be together and nibble on stuffing. 

3. Thanksgiving Day, when the kids kids get home consider watching something fun and Thanksgivingish like Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin or all the Thanksgiving Friends episodes. 


1. If you are moving here I encourage you to BRING your decorations. You don't know how many people I have heard regretting leaving their holiday decorations behind. It helps to bring some holiday spirit into your home. Oh.... except lights or anything that has to be plugged in with a motor. Might as well store those suckers cause they won't work. UNLESS it's something special and you use a transformer which I do with my tree and garland. 

2. Consider ordering gingerbread houses to put in your suitcase or fun holiday crafts in your shipment if you can track them down on Amazon. Also consider bringing wrapping paper if you have a big shipment and lots of room. It can be a pain to find big rolls of paper and more expensive. (If you don't have them IKEA carries them close to the holiday.) 

3. Consider packing some Christmas gifts for the first Christmas you're here. Knowing where to find things your kids will want for Christmas here can be challenging. It's also good to consider things like a larger bike for a kid that's growing in the shipment since those are more expensive here and in expat communities are often used daily for getting around. 

4. Consider bringing favorite candy for Christmas time. 

5. Consider going home for Christmas break if you can. If you can't make it home try a trip to somewhere that celebrates the holiday. All the Disney parks in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo celebrate. It can also be an added boost that those places are COLD and feel more like what we may be used to for the holiday. Australia also celebrates and is a wonderful Western fix as far as food and language. It is, however, important to note that December is their summer so it won't be cold. 

6. Consider some new traditions you can start while you're living overseas to help make the time special. Are you a Christian? What a perfect time to try celebrating Advent. Watch lots of Christmas movies you can stream on Amazon. Pack some Christmas jigsaw puzzles in your shipment to work together during the holiday. Pack some Christmas books and wrap them up in paper to be unwrapped and read as a family. Make hot chocolate every night and do family FaceTime appointments with all the loved ones you miss... 

Anything that makes you feel more in the holiday spirit and closer to the people you love is a win. 

Know that the holidays starting with October when pumpkins cost $70 till New Years is just rough for a lot of us. Prepare yourself and just accept that it's ok for it to feel hard. You're normal. When you look back a lot of it's funny and entertaining to think back on. In the middle it can feel overwhelming. I think knowing how to prepare going in is half the the battle. I hope this helps! 

AND you're most likely going to LOVE experiencing and learning about a few of the extremely unique and wonderful holidays that are celebrated in the Thai culture. Somehow we get to mesh together two, three or however many cultures. It gets tricky sometimes but if we handle it well we can end up having holidays that are unforgettable. 

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